"far too potent a reek of purplish civet"

A civet is a carnivorous, cat-like mammal found throughout Africa and in parts of Asia.  It is especially common in the tropics.  The musk secreted by the civet (both male and female) has traditionally been used in the manufacture of perfume, though lobbying from animal rights groups has seen this decline over the years.  It was an original ingredient of Chanel No.5, though the company claim they now use synthetic civet instead.